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NASCAR Announces Ban on Confederate Flags, Says ‘We Must Do Better’

NASCAR drivers have also come out in support of #BlackLivesMatter in recent days.

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(TMU) – On Wednesday, NASCAR formally banned the Confederate flag from all races and properties in a bold move that distances the company from what many see as a symbol of slavery and white supremacy, but which also served as a mainstay at the stock car racing company’s events for over 70 years.

As the United States continues to be gripped by over two weeks of social upheaval and protests for racial justice and an end to police brutality, some of the largest companies in the United States ranging from HBO to the NFL have been re-examining their approach to race relations and redoubling their efforts to back away from content and symbols associated with systematic racism in American society.

Following the May 25 killing of unarmed 46-year-old Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the company was also caught in the crossfire of demands for change as Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black driver, called for the Confederate battle flag to be banished as it had “no place” in the sport.

“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry,” NASCAR said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

The move was announced just hours before a Wednesday night race at Martinsville Speedway where Wallace plans to drive a Chevrolet coated in a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme. The Alabama native’s decision to use the BLM scheme has been hailed by several athletes on Twitter, including NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. NASCAR drivers have also come out in support of #BlackLivesMatter in recent days.

The move could serve to rile up fans of the sport, however. According to Statista, the vast majority of NASCAR fans – approximately 91 percent – are white, and the sport remains rooted in the U.S. South. In 2015, ex-Chairman Brian France attempted to ban the flying of the Confederate flag at races and received an angry backlash from fans.

NASCAR hasn’t yet addressed how it plans to enforce the policy or what penalties, if any, it plans to use against fans who bring the controversial banner to the track. Fans haven’t been in attendance at NASCAR races since the sport resumed last month amid the pandemic.

Statues of military leaders and figures who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War have increasingly come under fire in the past several years as embodiments of anti-Black bigotry and white supremacy, with crowds often toppling or defacing the monuments.

According to the Washington Post, some 1,880 Confederate monuments have been erected across 31 states as well as the nation’s capital since 1880. Only 11 states formed the Confederacy, which attempted to secede from the United States in February 1861. The Southern declarations of secession resulted in a gruesome four-year civil war that saw upwards of 600,000 lives lost, the Confederacy dissolved, and slavery abolished.

For decades following the Confederacy’s defeat, a nostalgic myth about the so-called “Lost Cause” — noble Southern “rebels” rising up despite the odds to defend their way of life from Northern Yankees — proliferated across the U.S. South, primarily among white residents.

Believers and propagandists of the “Lost Cause” largely shrugged off or downplayed claims of historic racism, instead reframing the Civil War as a constitutional clash over state’s rights rather than a fight to preserve institutions of slavery. Lost Cause proponents also depicted the aftermath of the war as a tragedy for once-prosperous whites in the south and even for Black people, who were alleged to have benefited from the livelihoods allegedly provided by their former plantation masters.

This revisionist history also involved false claims of white victimization at the hands of Jewish northern “carpetbaggers” and vengeful Black ex-slaves as well as their supposed “malcontent” children during the era of Reconstruction. These ideological claims laid the basis for the rise of white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, as well as Jim Crow segregation laws that systematized the continued discrimination against and exclusion of Black people in the South.

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